Mountain City Shopping Center
The Mountain City Shopping Center or Rosebrook Shopping Center, was the name of a proposed 97-acre regional shopping mall behind the Homewood Armory, on the north slope of Shades Mountain at the intersection of Shades Creek Parkway and Montgomery Highway in Homewood, the present site of Brookwood Village. It was proposed by the Rosebrook Corporation of Dallas, Texas in 1959. Birmingham businessmen Charles Carney, F. W. Nichols and David Levin were directors of the company involved in the project. Had it been constructed, it would have vied with Eastwood Mall as "first enclosed mall in the Deep South," and with Edina, Minnesota's Southdale Center as the largest shopping mall in the United States.
The 750,000–1,000,000 square-foot shopping center, "all air-conditioned and under one roof," was to be one component of a 114-acre $35 million mixed-use development which would include an "ultra-modern office park," with a 7-story professional building, and a 350-room "resort motel." The company also planned to build an apartment complex with "several hundred" units, west of Edgewood Lake. The shopping center itself, estimated to cost $20 million, would be anchored by "two of the South's finest department stores plus numerous specialty and other shops," surrounded by 6,000 parking spaces.
The project was under development simultaneously with another major retail center, the Southgate Shopping Mall, proposed by the Southgate Corporation of Chattanooga, Tennessee. It would have been built on 110 acres covering much of the historic Rosedale neighborhood, then considered an "urban renewal" site.
The developers petitioned the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation to have the property, which they had acquired through a subsidiary, the Rosebrook-Cherokee Land Co., annexed into the City of Homewood for apartments. The Vestavia Hills City Council passed a resolution opposing the annexation, but dropped their objections when Rosebrook told them only single-family homes would be built. After the land was annexed, Rosebrook announced the commercial development, and Vestavia passed a new resolution in opposition, to present to Homewood officials, requesting at least a 100-foot buffer along the Alabama Power Company's easement.
Rezoning for the project was endorsed by the Homewood Planning Commission by a 4-3 vote on December 1, 1959. The Homewood City Council voted unanimously to have city attorney Irvine Porter draft a rezoning ordinance that included stipulations that would cause the zoning to revert if the company changed its plans. The council adopted a compromise ordinance presented by Rosebrook's attorneys that would revert if "certain obligations" were not met. Among those was an obligation of secure building permits by the end of 1960. The approval came on a 7-3 vote following a packed contentious meeting on the evening of January 25, 1960. Attorney Andrew Griffin labeled the project a "diabolical scheme," which would, "relegate Homewood to mediocrity and destroy the scenic advantage with which nature endowed us." He also argued that the new development would cause the existing downtown Homewood business district to, "decay and become a mediocre shopping area." The Homewood Merchants Committee canvassed 87 existing Homewood businesses and secured 84 signatures on a petition of protest. However Carney also gathered 36 signatures of merchants on a counter-petition of support for the project.
The next morning Rosebrook's Carney claimed that, "bulldozers are on the property and ground-breaking began today". WATV-AM news director Stan Vainrib and staffer Tom Chapman visited the site to get audio of the bulldozers and a comment from Carney, but were told to leave, as Carney felt a grudge against the station's general manager, Maury Farrell was one of the three City Council members who voted against the rezoning.
In April, with rough grading still underway at the site, Griffin filed a bill of complaint at the Jefferson County Equity Court on behalf of residents Ashely Chambers and William Bunting, asking for the rezoning ordinance to be invalidated. The City of Homewood filed a demurrer claiming that the complaint was insufficient to sustain the claim. Judge Walter Giles agreed, but gave Griffin 30 days to amend the complaint. Meanwhile Vestavia Hills petitioned to intervene in the case or file a separate complaint. As the case dragged out, the January vote became in issue in the 1960 Homewood municipal elections held on September 19. Six of those who voted in favor of the project did not keep their seats.
In December, Rosebrook accepted a $5 million contract with C. O. Osborn to build the "shell" of the 750,000 square-foot shopping center, the budget for which had shrunk to $12 million, not including the clearing and grading already completed. At that time, access to the development was planned to be by an elevated loop from Montgomery Highway, by a bridge over Shades Creek at Windsor Drive just outside Homewood's city limits, and by connection to Cherokee Road, near the route of the then-proposed U.S. Highway 280 route. The company submitted its application for a building permit for that portion of the work on December 27. Homewood building inspector George Shaia denied the permit because Osborne was not licensed as a general contractor in Alabama and because the plans were found incomplete. Meanwhile, upon learning that the plans called for a large box culvert to empty into Shades Creek nearby, the Homewood Armory asked for a delay to study ways to prevent flooding.
Homewood's delays prompted the Rosebrook Corporation to file a counter-suit in the Court of Equity. Judge Giles dismissed that suit without prejudice on June 2, 1961, noting that few of the claims made in the filing touched on matters of equity. The City of Homewood created a new Homewood Board of Zoning Adjustment that same month, but exempted properties currently in litigation from the board's authority. Rosebrook's attorney, Mark Taliaferro appealed the suit to the Jefferson County Circuit Court, asking the court to order the city to grant the building permit.
Judge John Jenkins dismissed the residents' lawsuit in May 1963, on the basis that Chambers and Bunting no longer lived in the city, returning the matter to the Homewood City Council. The city faced mounting public pressure to rescind the zoning change and limit development of the property to residences.
- Beiman, Irving (December 2, 1959) "Shades Valley area may have $35 million development." The Birmingham News, p. 37
- Isaacson, Lou (December 15, 1959) "Homewood Council orders rezoning ordinance drawn." The Birmingham News, p. 15
- Isaacson, Lou (December 29, 1959) "Zoning hassle stirs Homewood council." The Birmingham News, p. 4
- Isaacson, Lou (January 7, 1960) "Vestavia Council opposes Homewood shopping area." The Birmingham News, p. 32
- Isaacson, Lou (January 19, 1960) "Shopping center splits merchants in Homewood." The Birmingham News, p. 8
- Isaacson, Louis (January 26, 1960) "Homewood officials OK shopping city." The Birmingham News, pp. 1–2
- "Rosebrook exec said 'abusive' to newscaster." (January 26, 1960) The Birmingham News, p. 2
- Isaacson, Lou (April 7, 1960) "Court asked to void 'mountain city' decree." The Birmingham News, p. 36
- Isaacson, Lou (May 4, 1960) "Rosebrook Corp. starts clearing 100-acre tract." The Birmingham News, p. 26
- Isaacson, Lou (June 14, 1960) "Rosebrook shop center challenge still pending." The Birmingham News, p. 4
- Roosevelt, Oliver (November 29, 1960) "Rosebrook permit issue rises anew." The Birmingham News, p. 6
- Roosevelt, Oliver (December 20, 1960) "Over the Mountain" The Birmingham News, p. 24
- Roosevelt, Oliver (December 28, 1960) "Rosebrook Corp. files for $5 million building permit." The Birmingham News, pp. 1–2
- Roosevelt, Oliver (January 3, 1961) "Rosebrook denied Homewood permit." The Birmingham News, p. 1
- Roosevelt, Oliver (February 28, 1961) "Homewood puts off Rosebrook decision." The Birmingham News, p. 4
- Roosevelt, Oliver (June 2, 1961) "Court ousts Rosebrook suit against Homewood." The Birmingham News, p. 2
- Roosevelt, Oliver (June 13, 1961) "New Homewood zoning law is like 'Alice in Wonderland'." The Birmingham News, p. 10
- Spotswood, Frances (September 26, 1961) "Rosebrook will sue for center permit." The Birmingham News, p. 36
- Spotswood, Frances (April 10, 1963) "Showdown due in Rosebrook bid for shopping city." The Birmingham News, p. 30
- Spotswood, Frances (May 28, 1963) "Rosebrook plan up to council now." The Birmingham News, p. 34